(Editor’s Note: May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and The Smoke Signal asked Pascack Valley students that struggled with their mental-health to tell their stories, some of which may contain sensitive content. This is the second article of an eight part series.)
Growing up, I was a “normal” child. I had a good group of friends, I got average grades, and I was happy. The only thing that was relatively different about me compared to most of my friends was that my parents were divorced and had been since I was two.
My mother was sick throughout most of her life and passed away when I was about 8-years-old, causing my life to change. I remember having an immensely hard time coming to terms with her death. Not long after that, I was forced to move in with my father, but we did not have the best relationship. Although I struggled with moving in with my dad and dealing with the loss of my mother, I learned to cope with these issues.
It was not until seventh grade when I started struggling again. Being bullied for years about my appearance and personality, I developed depression and mild anxiety along with an eating disorder that soon followed. It suddenly felt that everything I previously loved and cared about seemed meaningless.
Life suddenly had lost all of its color. I would see everything in black and white.
At first, I did not try to hide my pain. I would not bother faking a smile and acting like I was okay, but little did I know I would lose most of my friends due to my constant negativity, which made matters worse. I began self harming, leaving scars all over my body. Giving others a reason to stare.
In April of seventh grade, I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt, but I was not aware that this would not be my only attempt. I began seeing a therapist weekly after my hospitalization but did not continue going for longer than a month because I did not see a positive change as quickly as I expected.
My struggles continued to get worse until my next suicide attempt a little over a year later. In eighth grade, I ended up in the hospital again and I decided to go back to therapy.
Over time, my eating disorder got increasingly worse, and I became obsessed with the number on the scale. I refused to eat for days at a time and then eating days worth of food in one sitting. Because of this, my weight would plummet and jump constantly. This is when I finally got diagnosed with an eating disorder that I had been struggling with for years.
I found out I had Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). I was told that I was suffering from malnutrition and was at a risk of more severe health problems. I dealt with this eating disorder for years, constantly living in fear of gaining weight.
During my freshman year of high school, my eating disorder hit its peak and I was constantly depressed and anxious. I could not maintain my friendships, causing me to almost always feel alone. A few months after another suicide attempt, I decided to go into recovery.
I noticed that my depression was a lot easier to manage during my sophomore year. My anxiety, though, did get worse. During this time, I became manager for an Eating Disorder Awareness Campaign called Need to bEAT, an attempt to help others understand that they are not alone.
Over the span of my sophomore year, I went to the Joan’s Joy Child Safety Fun Fest for Need to bEAT and hosted an eating disorder awareness benefit concert, where I raised over $300 for eating disorder research. Towards the end of sophomore year, I met my girlfriend who showed me her constant support since day one.
For the first time in a while, I started to feel not only happy, but loved.
When junior year started, everything began to go downhill. I relapsed into severe self harm and my depression and anxiety hit their peak. It was almost impossible for me to get out of bed in the morning. I started separating from my close friends and could not find joy in almost anything. Within the first few months of junior year, I got hospitalized twice for my severe self harm.
After starting therapy again and getting medications to help with my depression and anxiety, I started recovery once again.
Currently, I am fighting an emotional battle everyday, but I know that I will be successful and I will live life to the fullest.
I am strong enough to push through my struggles and I am not defined by my mental health.